The Trouble with Stress


woman with stress

Why is Stress a Problem?

We often underestimate the power of stress. We like to see it as natural, and even helpful, in being productive in our day-to-day lives. But the positive effects of stress, like goal orientation, motivation, and even intensified memory or cognitive responses are most beneficial in small doses.

Many of us have built up tolerances to living with constant, heightened stress levels, and the temptation to see this as a positive or heroic trait has reduced our natural desire to respond to it. Instead of recognizing and reacting to the core ‘fight or flight’ survival response that it provides, many of us function with long durations of heightened stress without realizing that living under continued high levels can have dire health consequences.

How Stress works:

You’ve probably heard this before, and you’ve certainly felt it: the pounding heart, the rushing sounds in your ears, and an acute and intense desire for action when something has caught you completely off guard.

When your brain perceives some kind of stress, be it your move in a basketball game, a heated argument, or stepping off a busy street, it starts producing an influx of epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol hormones. This flood of chemicals produces a variety of reactions: increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and an acute focus on taking whatever action is necessary to stay safe.

Stress can be brought on by a variety of internal and external factors, and it can be a very healthy reaction and necessary to maintain our survival. It’s when you remain in a heightened state for prolonged periods of time, that the effects of stress on your system can become a real medical problem.

How much stress is too much?

Life events, changes in lifestyle, work, family, or even shifting responsibilities such as child or parent care, relationships, and work can directly affect feelings of overwhelm. When the amount on our plate reaches a place of critical mass, we experience overwhelm. That experience can present itself in many ways. Emotional stressors like these, that remain for a period of weeks, months, or even years, can become detrimental to your immune system, and your overall health. Being able to recognize our own stress signals is the first step to finding ways to cope with and dissipate it, to return to a healthy state that will enable you to work through the demands placed on you.

Recognizing Stress Responses:

There are many ways that stress expresses itself. While some might be more familiar to you than others, a person can experience some or all of these at different times. But, multiplied sources of ongoing stress can lead to larger health issues. If chronic stress is not dealt with effectively, it can become debilitating, leading to an inability of what we want to do most: thrive at work, and in life with our family and friends.

Being able to recognize the sensations of stress is the first step to being able to discuss them with your family doctor and your personal health team. Then, they can help you find ways to cope more effectively.

Stress can feel like:

  • Frenetic energy or restlessness
  • Fatigue, or trouble sleeping or staying awake
  • Digestive issues, changes in appetite, over or under eating
  • Change in use of addictive substances like alcohol, tobacco, or drugs
  • Inability to concentrate or complete tasks
  • Increased frequency of colds or other illnesses like autoimmune disease flares
  • Heightened anger or impatience
  • Headaches, migraines, body aches
  • Increased irritability, anger, or anxiety
  • Lack of motivation, depression, sadness
  • Inability to catch your breath, panic attacks
  • Change in sex drive, social withdrawal
  • Feelings of being ‘burnt out’

That’s me! What should I do?

First, know that everyone experiences high stress at one time or another. You are not alone.

Second, understand that it is manageable and that there are many tools that Dr. Pamela Frank, ND  Dr. Rachel Vong, ND and Ichih Wang, therapist in training, have at their disposal to help hone in on treatments and and actions that will support you in managing yours. If stress is creating muscle tension, back pain or neck pain, see one of our massage therapists, Helen Bhavnani or CJ Paterson, our acupuncture/TCMP Joy Walraven and Dr. Farnaz Najm, our chiropractor.

There’s no need to wait until stress is overwhelming to start practicing some simple management techniques. In fact, the Mayo Clinic recommends including a few key practices to help manage everyday stress, so that if a major issue should arise, you’ll have a few great tools already in your tool box.

Some people find great benefit in:

  • Effective, gentle breathing and stretching techniques
  • Tai Chi or gentle yoga (such as Hatha, Yin, or Restorative not Vinyasa, Ashtanga, or Power)
  • Exercising regularly, choosing gentle forms of movement and temporarily reducing or eliminating cardio intensive exercise (which increases the cortisol response)
  • Allotting quiet time for yourself, to think, journal, meditate, or engage in a creative activity that you enjoy
  • Implement a restful sleep routine that makes a conscious effort towards reducing screen-time and stimulants before bed, and gives you the opportunity to regulate the amount and timing of your sleep hours – the mind and body heal when at rest

Let the mind and body work together:

Remember that stress starts in the brain, and then exhibits in the body. It is not a form of weakness; rather, it is a normal psychological and physical response to situations that require our attention. The way that we can best manage stress is by paying attention and caring for the mind as well as the body, holistically. Some potential stress diagnostic and stress management tools your practitioner could suggest include:

  • Hormone testing and re-balancing
  • Methods of identifying and eliminating stressors
  • Natural, non-addictive, sleep training
  • Building inroads to create family support
  • Natural nutritional supplements such as:
    • Magnesium glycinate
    • B vitamins
    • Adrenal support and adaptogenic supplements (like ashwaganda, Korean ginseng, licorice root, or schisandra)
  • Properly administered essential oil blends, such as:
    • Chamomile
    • Frankincense
    • Lavender
    • Lemon balm
    • Rose
    • Vanilla
    • Valerian

It’s never too early to start learning how to identify and copy better with stress. After all, life is full of surprises. Have you tried any of these tools? Which ones have worked best for you? Which new ones will you try?

Your Forces of Nature Wellness Team is here to help you. If you find that your stress management toolkit isn’t providing what you need, please call us. We would love to support you to finding your best health.

 

Migraines: Why Are You Still Suffering?


woman with migraines

Why Do You Get Migraines?

What Causes Migraines?

There are a number of potential causes of migraines:

  1. Excessive histamine
  2. Excessive inflammation
  3. Food allergies, intolerances or sensitivities
  4. Neurotransmitter imbalance
  5. Hormone imbalance

How Do You Know if a Headache is a Migraine?

Migraine symptoms include: nausea and/or vomiting, pain behind one eye, pain in your temples, visual changes like seeing spots or auras, sensitivity to light and/or sound, and/or temporary vision loss [see your MD ASAP if you have this symptom].

How Long Does a Migraine Last?

A typical migraine can last from 4 to 72 hours.

The Natural Treatment Approach to Migraines

  1. Reduce histamine – correct diet, increase vitamin C
  2. Support the adrenal glands – vitamin B5, B6, C, magnesium, zinc, ashwaganda, panax ginseng, rhodiola, schisandra, gotu kola.
  3. Test for and remove IgG and IgA food sensitivities.
  4. Balance neurotransmitters by providing the appropriate precursor vitamins, minerals and amino acids (B6, magnesium, tryptophan, tyrosine).
  5. Balance hormones – correct diet, provide indole-3-carbinol, 5MTHF, P5P, magnesium, B12, and glucarate for liver detoxification.

Histamine

Excessive blood histamine levels may be a factor in migraines. Histamine is a substance released by cells known as mast cells and is also present in certain foods. Histamine from food sources are normally broken down in the gut by an enzyme known as DAO or Diamine Oxidase.  Some people are genetically programmed to make inadequate levels of DAO. Stabilizing mast cells to reduce histamine release, lowering intake of high histamine foods and supplementing DAO enzyme may help histamine related migraines.

Dietary histamine: Avoid citrus fruit, stored, fermented, canned, aged and/or pickled foods.

Antihistamine: Vitamin C acts as a natural antihistamine and supports the adrenal glands and healthy, more stable blood veins and arteries.

Blood tests: tryptase and diamine oxidase (DAO).

Adrenal glands

The adrenal glands are your body’s internal corticosteroid source.  As such, they play a role in moderating inflammation and migraine prevention. Depletion of critical nutrients for adrenal function due to malabsorption, excessive excretion due to stress, or poor diet may lead to altered HPA axis function or corticosteroid production, contributing to migraines. Adrenal supportive nutrients include vitamin B5, B6, C, magnesium, and zinc.  Herbs demonstrated to support the body’s adaptation to stress include Panax ginseng, eleuthrococcus, ashwaganda and licorice root.

Blood tests that may elucidate issues with the adrenals include DHEAs, testosterone, a.m. and p.m. cortisol levels.

Test for and Remove IgG and IgA Mediated Food Sensitivities

The exclusion of IgG mediated food sensitivities has been shown to significantly improve symptoms for sufferers of migraines and IBS. An association between celiac disease (IgA antibodies to gluten) and migraine in adults has also established.

Blood test: IgG and IgA food sensitivity testing

Neurotransmitters and Migraines

Research has also suggested a connection between neurotransmitter levels such as serotonin and migraine.   SSRI type medications are often tried as a solution.  Many of the patients that I see don’t like these medications due to their side effects of weight gain, low libido and feeling emotionally flat. As an alternative to this approach, I recommend vitamin B6 and magnesium as co-factors for the production of serotonin. Magnesium may also help relax muscle tension and calm the nervous system.

Blood test: Spectracell Micronutrient Analysis

Migraines and Hormones

Hormone imbalance can influence susceptibility to migraines. Estrogen dominance in women often precipitates premenstrual migraines.  Supporting liver detoxification of estrogen, including environmental estrogens, helps relieve menstrual migraines.

Blood tests: DHEAs, testosterone, estradiol, LH, FSH, progesterone, prolactin

What other treatments help migraines?

Other effective natural medicine therapies for migraines include: chiropractic treatment, massage therapy, acupuncture and craniosacral therapy.

If you need help with migraines, click here to book an appointment.

References:

  1. Johnston CS, Martin LJ, Cai X. Antihistamine effect of supplemental ascorbic acid and neutrophil chemotaxis. J Am Coll Nutr. 1992 Apr;11(2):172-6.
  2. Alstadhaug KB. Histamine in migraine and brain. Headache. 2014 Feb;54(2):246-59.
  3. Aydinlar EI, Dikmen PY, Tiftikci A, Saruc M, Aksu M, Gunsoy HG, Tozun N. IgG-based elimination diet in migraine plus irritable bowel syndrome. Headache. 2013 Mar;53(3):514-25.
  4. Cristofori F, Fontana C, Magistà A, Capriati T, Indrio F, Castellaneta S, Cavallo L, Francavilla R. Increased prevalence of celiac disease among pediatric patients with irritable bowel syndrome: a 6-year prospective cohort study. JAMA Pediatr. 2014 Jun;168(6):555-60.
  5. Gabrielli M, Cremonini F, Fiore G, Addolorato G, Padalino C, Candelli M, De Leo ME, Santarelli L, Giacovazzo M, Gasbarrini A, Pola P, Gasbarrini A. Association between migraine and Celiac disease: results from a preliminary case-control and therapeutic study. Am J Gastroenterol. 2003 Mar;98(3):625-9.
  6. Woldeamanuel Y, Rapoport A, Cowan R. The place of corticosteroids in migraine attack management: A 65-year systematic review with pooled analysis and critical appraisal. Cephalalgia. 2015 Jan 9.
  7. McMullen MK, Whitehouse JM, Towell A. Bitters: Time for a New Paradigm. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:670504.
  8. Dakshinamurti S, Dakshinamurti K Antihypertensive and neuroprotective actions of pyridoxine and its derivatives. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2015 May 11:1-8.
  9. Mauskop A, Varughese J. Why all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium. J Neural Transm. 2012 May;119(5):575-9.
  10. Patacchioli FR, Monnazzi P, Simeoni S, De Filippis S, Salvatori E, Coloprisco G, Martelletti P. Salivary cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulphate (DHEA-S) and testosterone in women with chronic migraine. J Headache Pain. 2006 Apr;7(2):90-4. Epub 2006 Mar 31.

 

 

How to Diagnose PCOS – Hint, it’s not by how a woman “looks”

woman wondering how to diagnose PCOS
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS

How To Diagnose PCOS

by Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), Naturopathic Doctor

I chose this as the first of a series of “how-to diagnose” posts, as it so often is done incorrectly.  There are 3 main criteria required to diagnose PCOS, only 2 of these 3 need to be present to diagnose PCOS according to the Rotterdam criteria:

  1. Oligo-ovulation – this means lack of or irregular ovulation, most women would have no way of knowing if they ovulate regularly or not (regular periods do not indicate regular ovulation) and most doctors haven’t tested for it (repeated day 21 progesterone measurements).
  2. Clinical signs or blood work demonstrating hyperandrogenism – this would be symptoms like acne, hair loss, excess facial or body hair, irregular periods and blood tests for testosterone, DHEAs, androstenedione, DHT (these tests have often never been done).
  3. Cysts on the ovaries on ultrasound – this is a very misunderstood criteria.  Cysts can come and go, and only 2 of these 3 criteria are required, so a lack of cysts on the ovaries does NOT rule out PCOS.

What to Test for PCOS

To thoroughly assess a woman to determine whether or not to diagnose PCOS, the following tests should be done:

  1. Blood work: DHEAs, total testosterone, androstenedione, DHT, day 3 LH, FSH and estradiol (if cycles are present), day 21 or 7 days post ovulation progesterone (more than once, to determine whether ovulation occurs regularly), HbA1c, fasting blood glucose/insulin and/or 2 hour pc glucose/insulin (to determine insulin resistance).  Testing free testosterone is not sufficient, as the total testosterone can be high while the body maintains free testosterone in the normal range.  Testing only testosterone and not also checking DHEAs, androstenedione and DHT is also not sufficient.
  2. Pelvic and transvaginal ultrasound, more than once

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Diagnosing PCOS

The following are NOT adequate ways to diagnose PCOS:

  1. Body weight.  Being overweight or obese, is not a criteria required to diagnose PCOS.  In fact, up to 40% of women with PCOS are thin.  Women with PCOS will often exercise frequently or adopt eating disorders to prevent weight gain.
  2. Lack of cysts on the ovaries if the other two criteria are met.  Only 2 of the above 3 criteria need to be met to be diagnosed with PCOS.  The absence of cysts on the ovaries does not rule out PCOS.
  3. Lack of facial hair or lack of excessive body hair.  Most women with PCOS find these symptoms highly embarrassing and will have excess facial or body hair removed by laser, electrolysis, plucking or shaving.
  4. Clear skin.  Having acne is not a requirement to diagnose PCOS either.  Prior or current use of accutane and/or birth control pills may mask this symptom.
  5. How a woman “looks”.  See acne, hair and weight above (I mention this because I have had several women tell me that their doctor told them they didn’t have PCOS because they didn’t “look” like it).  You cannot rule in or rule out PCOS by how someone looks.

 

Prevent Back Pain While Snow Shoveling

picture of a good snow shovel to prevent back pain with snow shoveling

Prevent Back Pain While Snow Shoveling

Would you like to prevent back pain from snow shoveling?  Any time that we are using our bodies in a repetitive way, we are stressing the muscles and tearing muscle fibres.  That is why after a snow shoveling session we may feel stiff and achy all over.  So it is important to know that before we do something as mundane as shoveling the sidewalk, like any workout, we need to warm up and loosen our muscles.  For example, try going for a walk around the block first.  Dynamic stretching is also great for loosening up the muscles.  A dynamic stretch is one in which you move through the stretch but do not hold it for any longer than a few seconds; dynamic stretches are moving stretches.

Snow shoveling stretches

snow shoveling stretcheschiropractor recommended snow shoveling stretches

11 Tips from Your Chiropractor to Prevent Back Pain when Shoveling Snow

  1. Choose a shovel that is suitable to your height.  You do not want to be working with a shovel that is going to cause you to stand in
    a stooped posture.
  2. The lighter the shovel the better too.
  3. Use a shovel with a bent shaft.
  4. Stand with your feet hip distance apart and with one foot slightly behind the other.
  5. Keep your knees slightly bent, do not hyper-extend them or lock them out, this puts added stress through the knee joint.
  6. Always try pushing the snow to the side, don’t throw it.
  7. When it comes time to picking up the snow, keep the load as close to your body as possible and avoid bending at the waist and twisting motions.
  8. Before you try lifting a load, you should try testing the weight of that load. Remember wet snow is much heavier.
  9. After you have finished shoveling you should participate in some static stretches.  Repeat the dynamic ones, but hold the stretch for a minimum of
    20-30 seconds.
  10. Rehydrate yourself! Drink plenty of water after a good bout of shoveling.
  11. If you didn’t prevent back pain from snow shoveling, ice the sore areas down afterwards.  Icing reduces any inflammation that may have occurred.  Ice should never be applied directly to the skin, make sure that it is always wrapped in something like a clean towel.  Use the 10-10 rule for icing: place the ice on the sore area for 10 minutes, and then remove the ice for 10 minutes, repeat 3 times.  Let the area be for about an hour, and if it is still sore ice again.

Snow Shoveling References:

McGorry RW, Dempsey PG, Leamon TB. The effect of technique and shaft configuration in snow shoveling on physiologic, kinematic, kinetic and productivity variables. Appl Ergon. 2003 May;34(3):225-31.

Lewinson RT, Rouhi G, Robertson DG. Influence of snow shovel shaft configuration on lumbosacral biomechanics during a load-lifting task. Appl Ergon. 2014 Mar;45(2):234-8. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2013.04.004.

By Chiropractor Dr. Kim Macanuel, Chiropractor at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic.

What is Fatty Liver?

picture of a healthy liver without fatty liver disease

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

What is Fatty Liver (NAFLD)?

NAFLD is a condition where there are fat deposits in the liver in someone who is not an alcoholic.  The condition is thought to affect anywhere from 1 in 3 adults in the US and 1 in 10 children.  NAFLD is the leading cause of liver disease in Western countries.

Why is NAFLD a problem?

NAFLD itself is not necessarily serious but it can progress into another condition known as NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis). The fat deposits create inflammation in the liver and over time can damage the liver, leading to scarring, cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. Severe liver cirrhosis can necessitate a liver transplant.

What are the symptoms of Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?

You may have NAFLD and have no symptoms, the majority of people with the condition have no symptoms.  Children may have symptoms of abdominal pain and fatigue.  Your doctor may feel enlargement of your liver on physical exam.  

What causes Fatty Liver?

NAFLD is associated with Metabolic Syndrome – a group of symptoms (syndrome) that includes signs and symptoms such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, diabetes or pre-diabetes and being overweight.

How is NAFLD diagnosed?

A blood test for liver enzymes may be abnormal or not.  A liver ultrasound may show NAFLD.  NASH can only be diagnosed by liver biopsy.

What elses causes it?

Fat accumulation in the liver can also be caused by excess alcohol intake, certain medications, viral hepatitis, autoimmune liver disease, and metabolic or inherited liver disease.

What can be done about fatty liver disease?

In one study, mung bean sprouts that had been germinated for 4 days plus HIIT training improved sugar and fat metabolism, as well as liver function and cellular appearance in rats with NAFLD. Since insulin appears to play a significant role in fatty liver, adopting a low glycemic index, low glycemic load diet that requires less insulin is a good idea.  There are several other naturopathic interventions for fatty liver.

For more help with fatty liver disease, book an appointment now with one of our naturopathic doctors.

Suffering from Seasonal Allergies?

woman with successful treatment for seasonal allergies

Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal allergies are not just due to an immune system response to pollen, your immune system should not consider pollen to be a foreign invader that requires an immune system attack.  Allergies are a sign of inflamed and irritated tissue in the respiratory tract that has become super sensitive to particulate matter that should not normally trigger an immune response.  There are a number of factors that can contribute to this irritated tissue:

  1. Underlying food allergies or sensitivities.  Almost everyone has sensitivities to certain foods.  The most common ones are dairy, eggs, gluten, pineapple, almonds and beans like kidney beans and green beans.  Consuming these foods provokes the production of antibodies that lead to systemic inflammation that can leave nasal tissue easily irritated by fumes, chemicals, dust, pollen or mold spores. Our naturopathic doctors can help guide you through an elimination diet or order blood testing for food allergies or sensitivities.
  2. Toxin overload.  If your liver is not efficiently clearing waste and pollution from your body, then these chemicals accumulate and can irritate tissue, leaving it sensitive to pollen.  Facilitating phase I and phase II liver detoxification through supportive nutrients like n-acetyl cysteine, vitamin B6, L-5MTHF, calcium-d-glucarate and indole-3-carbinol can help your liver to more easily package toxins for excretion.
  3. Lack of vitamin C and vitamin B6.  Vitamin C and B6 are both natural anti-histamines.  Both are necessary in greater quantities when you are under stress.  In some cases of seasonal allergies, all I’ve helped my patient to do is to replenish both vitamins and long term allergies have subsided.
  4. Lack of vitamin A.  Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin that is crucial to the health of mucous membranes.  Mucous membranes are what line the whole respiratory tract, so a lack of vitamin A leaves that tissue unhealthy and more susceptible to irritation. One of the only foods that supplies pre-formed vitamin A is liver.  Otherwise, we acquire beta carotene from foods like carrots, Swiss chard, kale and spinach and our liver has to convert that to vitamin A.  Vitamin A accumulates in your body so long term supplementation is not recommended and vitamin A supplements should be avoided in women who are pregnant, breast feeding and in children. A vitamin A derivative has been shown to have anti-allergic effects in an allergic rhinitis model in mice, and its underlying mechanisms mainly include the induction of regulatory T cells and the inhibition of Th2 responses.
  5. Overgrowth of harmful bacteria/yeast in the digestive tract and a lack of probiotic bacteria.  Good bacteria help keep the immune system functioning normally by moderating immune system activity.  Antibiotic use wipes out good bacteria and allows overgrowth of unhealthy organisms that can push the immune system into overdrive. Killing off gut bacteria excess and restoring healthy beneficial flora can help settle down an overly active immune system.  A recent Italian study found that Bifidobacteria mixture was capable of significantly improving allergic rhinitis symptoms and quality of life in children with pollen-induced allergic rhinitis and intermittent asthma.  Another found a combination probiotic of Lactobacillus gasseri and two strains of Bifidobacter improved rhinoconjunctivitis-specific quality of life during allergy season for otherwise healthy individuals with self-reported seasonal allergies.

Our naturopathic doctors can help provide natural treatment for allergies.  Book an appointment now.

Natural Allergy Treatment Research

Miraglia Del Giudice M, Indolfi C, Capasso M, Maiello N, Decimo F, Ciprandi G. Bifidobacterium mixture (B longum BB536, B infantis M-63, B breve M-16V) treatment in children with seasonal allergic rhinitis and intermittent asthma.
Ital J Pediatr. 2017 Mar 7;43(1):25. doi: 10.1186/s13052-017-0340-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28270216

Dennis-Wall JC, Culpepper T, Nieves C Jr, Rowe CC, Burns AM, Rusch CT, Federico A, Ukhanova M, Waugh S, Mai V, Christman MC, Langkamp-Henken B. Probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, and Bifidobacterium longum MM-2) improve rhinoconjunctivitis-specific quality of life in individuals with seasonal allergies: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Mar;105(3):758-767. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.140012. Epub 2017 Feb 22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28228426

Son HL, Park HR, Park YJ, Kim SW. Effect of Retinoic Acid in a Mouse Model of Allergic Rhinitis. Allergy Asthma Immunol Res. 2015 Nov;7(6):590-8. doi: 10.4168/aair.2015.7.6.590. Epub 2015 Jun 2.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26333706

Thornhill SM, Kelly AM. Natural treatment of perennial allergic rhinitis. Altern Med Rev. 2000 Oct;5(5):448-54. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11056414

Ipci K, Altıntoprak N, Muluk NB, Senturk M, Cingi C. The possible mechanisms of the human microbiome in allergic diseases. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2017 Feb;274(2):617-626. doi: 10.1007/s00405-016-4058-6. Epub 2016 Apr 26.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27115907

Glutathione

glutathione molecule

What is Glutathione? 

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

It is a substance produced naturally in your liver and is a powerful antioxidant, considered to be the mother of all antioxidants (antioxidants help prevent oxidation and aging).  It is made from three amino acids: glutamic acid, cysteine and glycine.  One of the primary functions of glutathione is cellular detoxification.

Why is glutathione important?

Healthy blood levels are important for protection from heart disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s and aging in general.  Reduced levels occur with aging and are associated with increased oxidative damage.

How do I get glutathione?

Foods contain it and there are glutathione supplements, however, most of what is orally ingested gets broken down in the digestive tract and so it doesn’t have an impact on increasing your blood levels.  For this reason, taking supplements is likely a waste of money, even liposomal glutathione. Consuming the above amino acids may assist your liver in producing more if you need it. Food sources of glutathione include: spinach, asparagus, avocado, squash, okra, cauliflower, broccoli, walnuts, garlic and tomatoes.

How else can I raise my blood level?

There are a number of supplements that have been shown to help raise levels in the blood, including:
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid
  • Milk Thistle
  • MSM
  • Melatonin
  • Curcumin

Your body can also recycle existing glutathione with the help of following vitamins and minerals:

  • Vitamins: C, E, B vitamins, active folic acid (L-5MTHF)
  • Minerals: selenium, zinc, vanadium, magnesium

Too Much of a Good Thing?

There is some research that has found higher levels of glutathione in cancer cells.  It may be that the cells have increased their own level as a means of protecting themselves from damage by chemotherapeutic agents or it may be that cancer cells are trying to keep themselves from undergoing normal cell demise known as apoptosis.

Should you supplement with glutathione?

I would say no, for the reasons I have already mentioned: it’s poorly absorbed and broken down in the gut and until we fully understand why glutathione is higher in cancer cells, it may be best to avoid artificially increasing it.  Use of some of the above supplements that help support healthy internal production or recycling seems like safer options.

References:

Yilin Liu, Annastasia S. Hyde, Melanie A. Simpson, and Joseph J. Barycki. Emerging regulatory paradigms in glutathione metabolism. Adv Cancer Res. 2014; 122: 69–101.

Matthew Butawan, Rodney L. Benjamin, and Richard J. Bloomer. Methylsulfonylmethane: Applications and Safety of a Novel Dietary Supplement. Nutrients. 2017 Mar; 9(3): 290.

Antonio Carrillo-Vico, Patricia J. Lardone, Nuria Álvarez-Sánchez, Ana Rodríguez-Rodríguez, and Juan M. Guerrero. Melatonin: Buffering the Immune System. Int J Mol Sci. 2013 Apr; 14(4): 8638–8683.

Jianguo Lin, Youcai Tang, Qiaohua Kang, Yunfeng Feng, and Anping Chen. Curcumin inhibits gene expression of receptor for advanced glycation end-products (RAGE) in hepatic stellate cells in vitro by elevating PPARγ activity and attenuating oxidative stress. Br J Pharmacol. 2012 Aug; 166(8): 2212–2227.

Sinusitis

woman with sinusitis

Sinusitis

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

The word sinusitis just means inflammation of the sinuses.  Having inflamed sinuses does not mean that the inflammation is due to a bacterial infection, although sinusitis is often presumed to be from a bacterial infection and treated with antibiotics.

What Causes Sinusitis?

There are many potential triggers for sinus inflammation.  Of these, food allergies, food sensitivities, environmental allergies, bacterial infection, fungal infection, viral infection are the most common.   Of all the possible causes, bacteria is only a small fraction, so antibiotics may be completely unnecessary and ineffective.  Determining that bacteria is the cause of an episode of sinusitis is difficult without employing invasive procedures and most episodes of acute sinusitis resolve spontaneously, without antibiotics.

Should You Take Antibiotics for Sinusitis?

Research suggests that sinus infections aren’t actually helped by antibiotics or steroid nasal sprays.  This is because most sinus infections are caused by viruses. Antibiotics do not kill viruses and steroid nasal sprays suppress the immune system that may be trying to fight a virus.  Antibiotics do not lower the frequency of relapse and are associated with adverse effects such as yeast infections, and antibiotic resistance.  A 2012 study called for “a moratorium for the widespread practice of a prolonged course of antibiotics in patients with presumed chronic rhinosinusitis”, due to a lack of evidence of effectiveness.

In a 2007 study, researchers assigned 240 adults with sinusitis to one of four treatments: an antibiotic and a steroid spray, only an antibiotic, only steroid spray, or fake medicine. No group got better any quicker than the others.

How Should You Treat Sinusitis?

  1. Do some detective work to figure out the root cause and treat that. If it happens every spring, it may be an environmental allergy to pollen.  If it happens after eating certain foods, more likely a food allergy or sensitivity. We can do blood testing to determine what yours are.  If it happens after a course of antibiotics, it may be a fungal infection of the sinuses.  Whatever the cause, we can help sleuth it out and treat it.
  2. Neti pot.  Saline irrigation of the sinuses has been found to be safe and effective for treating sinusitis if done properly (use sterile saline).
  3. Support a healthy immune system.  Probiotics, vitamin D, vitamin C, herbs like astragalus and coriolus can help balance the immune system.

References:

Brook I. Microbiology of sinusitis. Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2011 Mar;8(1):90-100. doi: 10.1513/pats.201006-038RN.

Ferguson BJ, Narita M, Yu VL, Wagener MM, Gwaltney JM Jr. Prospective observational study of chronic rhinosinusitis: environmental triggers and antibiotic implications. Clin Infect Dis. 2012 Jan 1;54(1):62-8. doi: 10.1093/cid/cir747. Epub 2011 Nov 22.

Guarch Ibáñez B, Buñuel Álvarez JC, López Bermejo A, Mayol Canals L. The role of antibiotics in acute sinusitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. An Pediatr (Barc). 2011 Mar;74(3):154-60. doi: 10.1016/j.anpedi.2010.10.011. Epub 2011 Jan 14.

Wei JL, Sykes KJ, Johnson P, He J, Mayo MS. Safety and efficacy of once-daily nasal irrigation for the treatment of pediatric chronic rhinosinusitis. Laryngoscope. 2011 Sep;121(9):1989-2000. doi: 10.1002/lary.21923. Epub 2011 Aug 16.

 

Healthy Weight Loss

woman celebrating easy weight loss

Weight Loss: 5 Healthy Ways to Lose Weight

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Swimsuit season will soon be upon us!  This is the time of year where it is relatively easy to shed your winter weight. If trying on your spring and summer wardrobe has been a depressing experience, here are some weight loss tips and tricks to help you lose weight and get into summer shape more quickly and easily:

  1. Reality check – use a program like MyFitnessPal or the Fitbit app to track your caloric intake and exercise for a day or two.  You don’t need to get obsessive about it, but people tend to underestimate how many calories they consume and overestimate how much exercise they get.
  2. Reduce your stress.  Stress is bad for weight in so many ways: Increased cortisol, emotional eating, lower T3 (active thyroid hormone), higher reverse T3 (inactive thyroid hormone).
  3. Get enough sleep.  Lack of sleep lowers your willpower, promotes sugar cravings to supply energy and even one night of less than 4 hours sleep makes you more insulin resistant the next day and higher insulin means more fat gain
  4. Don’t snack.  The old 3 meals two snacks advice was bad advice.  Research has shown that people who snack between meals consume more calories in a day than those who don’t.
  5. Exercise. If you want everything you need to do to lose weight, my amazing colleague, Dr Jade Teta, has created an exercise program for weight loss, with bonus materials that include a healthy menu and recipes.  His workout will challenge what you thought you knew about exercise, it won’t take you long (only 15-20 minutes 3 times per week), there is no gym membership required, you can do it in your own living room, with or without weights or bands, it’s science based and it is cheap. The purpose of the program is to reset your metabolism to it’s prime.  I’m in my second round of the 12 week program and I can attest to the fact that it is hard, but I feel fitter than I have in years and I have lost weight and I’m exercising less. (despite my best efforts, my weight has only been doing a slow steady climb since I hit 45). Best of all, the program creator is a naturopathic doctor as well as a personal trainer and a heck of a nice guy. Check it out here. 

Stress and Diabetes

woman with job stress and diabetes

Job Stress and Diabetes

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Are you a slave to your job?  Do you work long hours? Have little support? Feel that you have no control over the situation? Is there a link between your stress and diabetes?  You may want to read this.

In a 2010 study, white, middle-aged women reporting high levels of job strain and little work-related social support appear to be at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.  Among the women, about 10 percent of all type 2 diabetes cases could have been prevented had the job-related stressors of little control, high demands, and little social support been eliminated.

When I see a patient with type II diabetes, we always address the 3 foundations of healthy blood sugar: diet, stress reduction and exercise. Women that I have seen with blood sugar problems have often already cleaned up their diet and started exercising, but may still struggle with blood sugar issues when stress is high. In those patients, we focus on reducing stress where we can and adding in some stress reduction techniques like yoga, meditation or tai chi.

Stress is a part of everyone’s life, and a certain amount of stress is good as it can help motivate action and positive change.  Where stress seems to be particularly damaging is where women feel out of control of the stress.  Given this data, perhaps we should consider out of control work stress as another unhealthy lifestyle factor similar to obesity, low physical activity, smoking and poor diet.  Working oneself to death is sometimes lauded as an achievement and considered admirable, there are limits and taking control of your stress and seeking social support may be more deserving of merit.

I would add that it’s particularly important for women with any reproductive health or hormonal issue to be cognizant of negative stress since that type of stress obviously has a major influence on blood sugar and insulin levels which ultimately creates hormonal imbalances as well as type II diabetes.

Our naturopathic doctors can help with lifestyle counselling, diet advice, and natural remedies to help you relax and manage blood sugar better.  And of course, our massage therapists have the most amazing remedy for stress at their fingertips.  Book now.